Since I took over an already legendary kennel from my mother in law, Linda Jones, at the start of 2005 I must admit that not even I could have possibly envisaged the level of success we have achieved over the next 12 years. 2016 will go down in history as the year we won a record 8th Trainer of the Year title beating John McGee's record that many said would never be broken. Of course that's a personal triumph that makes me so very proud and it will be an emotional night at the GBGB Awards night later this month when I receive the trophy again but really it's a triumph for all our 'Team Wallis' as no way could I have done this without my family Sarah, Linda and now my son Daniel who has worked a full year in another astounding season. We all have our staff to thank as well headed by the popular Sid Huett and Justine Slater who joined us in 2016, my friend Kevin Ulla, who does our racing and trials, has put some miles in this year that's for sure! and a big thank you to Ron Mills who continues to keep our dogs free from injury with his superb physio twice a week, my part time helpers Ronnie and Pete have also been a big help.
I have now been at Imperial Kennels since 1990 as a mere kennel hand and bar a couple of years where I had my own Permit Licence I've seen first hand how Linda turned a small kennel, with only a handful of race dogs racing at Swaffham and Mildenhall, into a successful operation with a top contract, firstly at Romford and then the much missed Walthamstow. The legend was set and 13 Category 1 winners and a famous 100/1 Trainers Championship meeting victory made Linda a household name in the greyhound world. This year Ferryforth Fran not only landed our 4th St Leger in six years but our kennel's 63rd Category 1 success in its history. Yes we can do the maths and Fran was 'Team Wallis's 50th individual Category 1 winner. That is without doubt astounding and something I can take to my grave with me, has it ended there? well hopefully not and though I will take nothing for granted I will expect, and try my hardest, to win many more over the next few years and just maybe there might be an even more successful kennel for my son Daniel to take over if that's what he wanted to do in the future.
So in a stellar year what were our highlights as there was so so many. All Category 1 successes are magical and magnificent none more so than Billys Bullets victory in the Coral Regency, it was a fairytale come true and is now well documented. Patchys Kerry's demolition job in the prestigious Ladbrokes Golden Jacket was awesome and possibly, bar the the Derby final, the best four bend race of the year was the Betfred Select Stakes at Nottingham and our little 'Pocket Rocket' Domino Storm destroyed some stunning opposition and gained some huge admirers in doing so. As you will see at the bottom in our Awards Section I've actually made Ferryforth Fran my Greyhound of the Year, the reason being not just his two brilliant Category 1 successes including a classic but more for the fact he epitomises what our kennel is all about, sold for a modest sum on my website with a reasonable Irish card he had a good 2015 but no one would have said that coming up to 3 years of age he would improve to the extent he did and he ran from January to December. I certainly have a real soft spot for him and who can blame me, like Billy & Meryl he is a real character. He might have been 14/1 in the Classic final but what a race he ran, that's what we are all about, class as well as longevity, that has been proved time and time again with the likes of Adageo Bob, Billys Bullet, Domino Storm, Clondoty Alex and a special mention to Calco Flyer who in our care all thrive and run as good as ever in their second and third seasons.
Billys Bullet, Domino Storm and Evanta Fantasy have now all been retired and how do you replace them? You can't but we do have some great talent to look forward to like Rubys Rascal, Ela Ela Genie and Roswell Romanov to name but a few and these were prolific in 2016. I will do a Class of 2017 soon highlighting other potential superstars.
In total in 2017 we had a staggering 25 competition and major invitation winners which included for a 3rd time (2005, 2009) 7 Category 1 winners. We finished some 400 points clear of our nearest rival Paul Young and he had his best season to date! Yes we had a couple of lows, seeing Patchys Kerry leave the kennel was hard to take and tragically we lost one of the most beautiful dogs I've ever trained when California didn't come back from Ireland after a freak accident at Shelbourne. That hurt I can tell you but thankfully overall our injuries have been kept to a bare minimum in 2016.
The sport overall still has its problems but that's not something for now. We owe a lot to Towcester who continue to set the standards for other tracks to match and this year they have the Greyhound Derby coming their way and hopefully we can find one to at least make the final. We are a big part of their success story and I hope that continues for many years to come.
Below is a full blow by blow account of 2016 with our website awards etc so enjoy the ride because we certainly did!
An incredibly busy start to the year as we began our campaign to land a record 8th Trainer Of The Year title. Swift Whirlwind was our first open race winner in the now established season opener the Coronation Cup heats at Romford. Patchys Kerry has her first runs out of season since her 2015 Champion Stakes victory and she and Swift Whirlwind both make it to the final. Patchys Kerry runs a big race but is thwarted by an inspired Millwards Master when runner up though we have a couple of nice supporting race winners in Calco Flyer and Sosaidhs Blue. Our first open race competition winner came two days later as Oldfield Lynda bags a Friday Night 500 Maiden Final at Romford.
The winners ticked over nicely and Roswell Iceman landed a Standard Final over 480m at Towcester which was now shown on RPGTV for the first time beating kennelmate Blue Moment while Ruby's Rascal announced himself on the stage with a Towcester Puppy heat win in emphatic style but was only 4th in the final after stumbling out the boxes. Billys Bullet had done brilliantly to get back to the track after serious injury in May 2015 and he just failed to make the Prestige Final at Hall Green but came back to win a supporting Sky race over 670m though there was still a few people questioning his ability to come back anywhere near his best. Ferryforth Fran was still improving after his glorious Bags Championship final win at Perry Barr the previous month and in a hot Prestige Final he finished a very creditable 3rd.
As we went to the Annual GBGB Awards night at the Royal Lancaster already as far back as January talk of this year's Derby being the last one at the GRA owned Wimbledon was very much on everyone's lips. It was still a glorious night as we picked up our 7th Trainer of the Year award while brilliant Oaks winner Domino Storm easily took the 'Bitch of the Year' accolade. Adageo Bob despite winning an emotional Essex Vase a few weeks before just missed out to the talented Eden The Kid in the 'Best British Bred' category but got some compensation by being voted the RPGTV 'Greyhound of the Year' by the viewers of the successful channel.
Despite missing out in the first two main finals of the year we still had a stack of open race winners and already led the current standings by quite a few points. That continued in February as we approached two major events, firstly the prestigious Ladbrokes Golden Jacket at Crayford where the first round and semi final were turned into a procession by an on song Patchys Kerry, without doubt she was going to be an ultra short price to be the first ante post favourite to win the Golden Jacket in decades.
In between the semi final and final we also had a small matter of a GTA Trainers Championship meeting at Sittingbourne. We sent out a strong team on paper though the draws had been slightly unkind to us and despite some good performances, especially from Ballymac Shirley who beat Forest Twilight in an epic battle in the Bitches race, Kevin Hutton won the first three races and comfortably defended his title. Luck wasn't really on our side and it does seem to be an event we keep missing out on which hopefully we can put right soon, again it was excellently organised by the GTA and Sittingbourne and was a huge success overall.
There was no time to mull over the events at Sittingbourne and we certainly didn't as Patchys Kerry destroyed her opposition to maintain her unbeaten run in the Golden Jacket landing the £17,500 prize in style. The hoodoo of being ante post favourite had been lifted and I don't think I've ever seen a greyhound dominate a Category 1 competition in the manner Kerry did winning the final in a fabulous 44.94. On a glorious night for the kennels Swift Whirlwind landed our 5th Peter Bussey Memorial Final on the trot in one of his best races he's run to date, quite extraordinary to keep coming back to Crayford and winning this title year after year. Aayamzamodel capped an excellent career when winning her final race over 714m before going off to the breeding paddocks and the decent Ilewin Allot also bowed out in style.
Other good winners at Towcester included a very good 39.45 from Billys Bullet while the points were being racked up at the likes of Monmore and Romford which meant by the end of the month we were some 200 points clear of our nearest rival, again quite incredible!
Another massively busy month on the open race circuit that had its ups and downs. A raging kennel cough that was one of the worst around the country had also bitten into our kennel with many of the younger dogs graded at Towcester were affected, at one point we had nearly 40 of our strength down with the bug, as a trainer these are the worst times of the year. Ballymac Shirley had a surprise invite into the Racing Post Juvenile Championship though unsuccessful in a hot race as you would expect on a brilliant Wimbledon undercard Domino Storm won well in the Bitches race.
I'm sure our kennel wasn't firing on all cylinders as we never made any of the Golden Sprint (Romford), Monmore Puppy Derby or the Arc (Swindon) finals with our entries though the disappointment started to lift at the end of the month as Patchys Kerry marched into the Pinpoint Three Steps To Victory final with a scintillating 28.49 win in the semi final over 500m.
The downside of having a large turnover of greyhounds coming into our kennel in the course of a year reared its ugly head as I attended an enquiry at the GBGB headquarters for the positive sample of one of our greyhounds Droopys Ford a few months back, thankfully it was unanimously agreed in my hearing that without any doubt the banned substance found in Droopys Ford had been administered before he came into our kennel and I had bought the dog in good faith. As I have always said the welfare of our greyhounds is of paramount importance before anything else.
This cloud being lifted signalled a change in fortune as we started to pile in the winners around the tracks as we plundered opens at Sheffield, Henlow, Monmore, Swindon, Romford and our own Towcester. The month ended as Deanridge Angel landed a Towcester Racecourse Standard final in 28.13. Domino Storm took off to land the one off Mervyn Cross Memorial Invitation worth £1500 beating kennel mate Airforce Duchess in a flying 27.81. Ballymac Shirley took the Henlow Bookmakers Bitches final also beating kennel mate Saffrons Anna in a fine 27.57. Saffrons Anna had previously broken the track record at Henlow for the 428m (25.50) while Ferryforth Fran racked up a four timer at Towcester. By the end of the month we had amassed an incredible 80 open race winners.
A stunning month for the kennel which kicked off with our second Category 1 winner of 2016 as Patchys Kerry escaped a poor draw in trap 4 to land the Pinpoint Recruitment Three Steps To Victory Final at Sheffield. A couple of scares along the way avoiding crowding and she opened up down the back straight to win by over 5 lgenths in a very good 38.77, this was her 3rd Group 1 title following her victories in last yea's Champion Stakes and February's Golden Jacket successes, truly an incredible competition bitch and a fabulous first four months of the year for us. With plenty of runners the night hadn't started well with a few defeats at Sheffield but with supporting wins for Domino Storm, Airforce Duchess and the ultra consistent Calco Flyer and of course Patchys Kerry's final win it was another huge night for the kennel.
Patchys Kerry and Domino Storm were now the hottest bitches in the country and over the years they rank along the all time greats not just in our kennel but perhaps the best in the sport for decades. We have been spoilt with top class bitches and both rank along side one of my all time favourites Star Of Dromin the queen of Walthamstow, wow how I'd have loved to have seen Star and Kerry run against each other at the Stow what a race that would have been and I'm also sure Domino Storm would have rattled the clock there as well over four bends.
Another brilliant bitch Evanta Fantasy landed a Friday Night 500m Standard final at Romford and also another great bitch Saffrons Anna took a Friday Night 500 Bitches Final a week later. Following up from her Sheffield win Domino Storm won a Derby trial stake in a blistering 28.24 and then returning to Sheffield she smashed the track record for 500m in another Sky race winning by 6 lengths in a magical 28.27.
With the William Hill Derby just around the corner Domino Storm would be our number 1 contender but obviously it is so hard for bitches to win this classic. We were boosted by two Irish imports in the shape of a young California (ex Silverhill Pat) and Shut The Backdoor who had been around the top Irish scene for quite a while. Sadly this of course would be the last ever Greyhound Derby to be staged at Wimbledon.
Before this Patchys Kerry was setting her sights on another Category 1 prize in the shape of the Coral Regency at Hove but the stiff 695m on a relentless gallop was proving tough for her to get, a trial stake defeat was forgiven but she was again caught on the line in the first round by the almost 'forgotten dog' Billys Bullet. He himself was creating a remarkable story having smashed his hock in a heat of the Regency when a hot favourite for outright honours in 2015. The fact his preparation was in tatters as he badly spiked a toe in a race at Sheffield a couple of weeks before and even on the day of the race he was only 50/50 to run which made it a fantastic effort to win in the heats, better was to come in the semi finals as he won well in an excellent 41.49 and win lose or draw it was a stunning effort to make the £10,000 decider.
In all we had 16 entries for the final Greyhound Derby to be staged at Wimbledon but before the heats kicked off we had the small matter of a Coral Regency Final and despite drawing admiration from most for just making the final Billys Bullet was not expected to complete a fairy tale story by winning the prestigious event at Hove. Trap 4 on the short run to the bend wasn't helpful but somebody forgot to tell Billy Boyle and Scott Murray's pride and joy and the 'Bullet' did just that out the boxes and in a really classy race he simply destroyed his opposition from the off. Majestically striding around his favourite track to a 3 1/2 length success in a fine 41.32 he came home to rousing and famous victory. It was only a little over 5 months since Adageo Bob's emotional and extraordinary triumph in the Coral Essex Vase at Romford which signalled some brilliant post race scenes, the likes of which are rare in our sport and one that I thought couldn't be matched but along comes Billys Bullet, what a night! The whole victory was testament to what can be achieved given patience from the owners, a superb vet in Daniel Doherty and obviously some excellent training skills from my team, superb!
We didn't have much time to rest on our laurels as over the next three days the greatest competition in the world kicked off and we started our William Hill Derby campaign with a win from Calco Flyer who finished like a train to land the spoils in 28.57. There was a surprise win for Ginas Lad (14/1) who beat kennelmate Clondoty Alex and ante post favourite Droopys Roddick in 28.64, Swift Whirlwind blasted to a 7 length win in 28.55 and Deanridge Angel won well in 28.57. Of course best of all had to be Domino Storm who scorched round in a blistering 28.38. In all we qualified 13 of our 16 entries.
We certainly didn't get too many favourable draws and easy heats in round 2 and there were plenty of rumblings from owners and trainers about a wide bias so far in the event though Clondoty Alex scorched around the track to win in 28.37 and Domino Storm's odds came tumbling down to 14/1 as she completed an eight timer in 28.31. California, Deanridge Madbye and Ginas Lad were our only other qualifiers.
Rubys Rascal was making a name for himself and took an RPGTV Puppy Standard final at Towcester but all eyes were on Domino Storm in the third round of the Derby but sadly she bowed out as eventual winner Jaytee Jet used the wides advantage to blow her away, it looked like she was on glue along the rails and another one to make the final Cloran Paddy passed her for the vital qualifying spot. Our highlight was California who burst into the Derby picture to land his heat in 28.57 to be our only entry left in the event. Clondoty Alex was desperately unlucky as he was fought on the run in when all set to qualify.
Quarter final night and our hopes of a third Derby title was wiped out with California going out despite a valiant effort.
Derby final night was a sad occasion being the last at Wimbledon as a decent crowd turned up. Jaytee Jet just got up on the line in a brilliant final. We incredibly had 5 seconds from 7 runners in supporting opens including an unlucky short head defeat for Clondoty Alex in the Derby Plate final.
With plenty of open race runners having a couple of weeks off June was our quietest month of the year. Evanta Fantasy was an unlucky 4th in the Henlow Mini Derby final at Henlow.
The month didn't start well as we headed to Sunderland for the annual William Hill festival. Patchys Kerry back after her Regency disappointment was ante post favourite for the Grand Prix but was dramatically ko'd at the first bend and was sent crashing out of the event. We were left licking our wounds with only Clondoty Alex surviving from all our runners in the Classic and Grand Prix.
A turn of good fortune was needed so step in Domino Storm as we accepted an invite for the Betfred Select Stakes at Nottingham. Third behind her brother Swift Hoffman in 2015 arguably this was a red hot race this year containing the likes of Droopys Buick, Eden The Kid, Lenson Sanchez, Making Paper and Hot Pipe. I must admit to being disappointed with a trap 4 draw but our little 'pocket rocket' came out under the traps and comfortably led up. Despite being challenged at the 3rd bend she kicked on for a memorable win to land the £7,500 first prize in a flying 29.34, this was definitely one of the highlights of the year.
Billys Bullet faded in the Betfred Select Stayers invitation behind Borna Mindy while over at Towcester Blastoff Bonnie took the Towcester Racecourse Maiden Stayers Final.
Calco Flyer coming up to the veteran stage was still running out of his skin and made the Sussex Cup final unbeaten after a facile semi final win in 29.67 calc but he never got a run when 4th though sprinter Ela Ela Genie came of age when winning the Coral Sprint Final worth £2,500 in 16.26 and Billys Bullet was back on the winning trail in a supporting open.
Greyhound racing across the other side of the world in Australia was in turmoil as the main state of New South Wales were facing a lifetime ban as live baiting was exposed and a deep look at other practices came to the fore, as usual a couple of bad apples spoil it for the rest. Over here the shock came with Corals sacking long time Romford trainer Jim Reynolds for a number of time finding incidents, the Mayor of London also put the final nail in the coffin for Wimbledon by basically not supporting greyhound racing and like Walthamstow no thought was given to the many people employed by the track or the heritage of the sport. On the track Ribble Atom qualified for the Collosus Bets TV Trophy for the second year in succession when winning her heat at Towcester.
A brilliant night at Towcester for the Colossus Bet TV Trophy where Lord Hesketh's Ribble Atom was third for the second year in succession behind game winner Borna Mindy. Swift Whirlwind superbly took the Blackstone Marco Retirement Stakes as well as good wins for Deanridge Angel and Rubys Rascal. We were heavily involved in the Monmore Gold Cup and Summer Stayers but it was only Ferryforth Fran who had made it to the Stayers final while another Friday Night 500 Bitches final was plundered by Evanta Fantasy in an excellent 23.85.
The superbly sponsored Lowther Stakes kicked off at Towcester and Domino Storm now recovered from an achilles' tendon problem won in the first round in 29.53. It was busy month being involved in other competitions at Monmore, Nottingham and Henlow while also having the Champion Stakes just around the corner. Disappointingly triple Category 1 winner Patchys Kerry left the kennel and wouldn't defend her title for us.
One of the most improved dogs in the kennel Ferryforth Fran gave first time owner Alan Morton a huge thrill as he landed the Ladbrokes Summer Stayers Final worth £7,500 at Monmore at a juicy 14/1. Getting a decent pitch early he took off down the back straight and beat some decent opponents entirely on merit, a good night as both Billys Bullet and Ribble Atom won in supporting Sky races.
The Champion Stakes kicked off at Romford and the unexposed Roswell Romanov won in the fastest time of the night 35.42 and also Ribble Aon won her heat while over at Towcester Domino Storm and Airforce Duchess both won their semi finals of the Lowther Stakes.
Returning from a family holiday we was desperately unlucky with both Roswell Romanov and Ribble Aon who just missed out on a place in the final of the Champion Stakes at Romford and on Towcester's big night featuring the Lowther Stakes Final we started well as we racked up 5 open race winners but sadly we had to play second fiddle to Seamus Cahill's Crossfield Molly who ran the race of her life to beat our Airforce Duchess and Domino Storm in the £10,000 decider. Newcomer Chubbbys Oak made the final of the Henlow Maiden Derby but missed his break and couldn't get a telling blow in when finishing down the field. Calco Flyer ran very well to make the Betfred Steel City Cup Final while the East Anglian Derby began at Yarmouth and California started well with a win in the opening round.
The kennel is in good form and Calco Flyer ran well to be 3rd in the Betfred Steel City Cup at Sheffield and the emerging Garryglass Champ won well in a supporting race. Mixed fortunes in the East Anglian Derby at Yarmouth with Clondoty Alex making his first ever Category 1 final. The Yorkshire St Leger kicked off at Doncaster and we were unlucky to have all three of our entries get drawn in the same heat but thankfully we had a Team Wallis 1-2-3 with Rubys Rascal beating Billys Bullet and Ferryforth Fran then amazingly they all got drawn in the same semi final!
Clondoty Alex was sensational as he trapped in his best style and led up a good field in the East Anglian Derby and then to the delight of his owners flew home to land the prestigious £12,500 to the winner event. My son Daniel paraded him and Sid and the team took the glory as I watched with the Calco Syndicate in Portugal on our annual golf trip, earlier the boys erupted in a bar as Calco Flyer showed age wasn't stopping him winning a supporting open. Both Billys Bullet and Rubys Rascal made the Yorkshire St Leger final but Ferryforth Fran just missed out though we were really out of luck in the Kent Derby with none of our four entries qualifying from the first round at Central Park.
A superb month for the kennel continued as Rubys Rascal landed our sixth Category 1 title when showing brilliant track craft and pace to land the Yorkshire St Leger at Doncaster for John Clarke, Billys Bullet battled hard but finished 5th and Ela Ela Genie landed another Sky sprint for to add to a good night. A week later we had high hopes of landing a third consecutive Category 1 final on Sky with Ribble Aon at Crayford in the Ladbrokes Gold Collar but a toe injury forced her to miss the race.
Towcester announced its ambitious plans to launch 8 dog racing firstly on Saturday mornings in December and then in 2017 Friday mornings. After Ribble Aon was withdrawn from the final our luck was still out as Garryglass Champ was knocked over in the heats of the Northern Puppy Derby at Newcastle. Also sad news that a former great dog for the kennel Fear No One had passed away, winner of the East Anglian Derby he also achieved a magical fete winning Peterborough's Puppy Derby and Fengate Collar in the same year in 2005.
Again we started the month well with a hatful of winners including another couple of Sky wins for Billys Bullet and Ribble Atom at Central Park. We hadn't been too successful in the Bags Track Championship but Towcester bounced back at Monmore and our four runners picked up a total of 34 points from a possible 40 with wins for Swift Whirlwind and Macs On Storm.
Rubys Rascal in excellent form added The Great North Run to his Yorkshire St Leger titles at Newcastle with Billys Bullet back in 4th. Domino Storm had no chance in the Angel of the North Oaks with early paced middle runner Some Woman inside her and she got no run. California and Clondoty Alex started their RPGTV Henlow Derby campaign with fluent heat wins and Roswell Romanov was starting to take to Romford taking the Friday Night 500 Stayers final in fine style.
The GBGB organised a working group, which included owners Steve Fluin and John Turner, to help sort out where next year's Derby can be held following Wimbledon's closure. Whilst on a family holiday Calco Flyer qualified for another major final in the British Breeders Stakes and California and Clondoty Alex were both impressive winning their semi finals of the RPGTV Henlow Derby. Our three big guns in the last ever William Hill St Leger at Wimbledon Ferryforth Fran, Rubys Rascal and Billys Bullet all qualified from their heats.
Our kennel was racking up the points with plenty of big race finalists but both the British Breeder Stakes first prize eluded us when Calco Flyer ran well but finished 4th at Nottingham. Slightly disappointing were California and Clondoty Alex who were 3rd and 4th respectively in the RPGTV Henlow Derby final behind Lenson Santi.
Approaching the last couple of months I was delighted to get three runners in the William Hill St Leger final. All three Billys Bullet, Rubys Rascal and Ferryforth Fran had bagged a Category 1 title this year but just to show how classy the race was none were anywhere near to the front of the betting with Cloran Paddy and defending champion Fizzypop Buddy all the rage. A decent crowd at Wimbledon witnessed a great race as Fizzypop Buddy led up, with all the big dangers crowding on the inside it was left to Ferryforth Fran to chase him. To most people's surprise our fella, backed earlier in the week at fancy odds, not only chased the leader but in a burst of middle pace he passed his rival with two bends to go and roared on by his proud owner and a little bit by myself! the magnificent trophy was his though I must admit to a hint of sadness that this was the last St Leger at Wimbledon.
With so many of our stars running well I made plans for a raid on Shelbourne for their 'Night of the Stars', a superb evening was set with some fantastic racing and a huge crowd was present, sadly that was as much as I can bare to write as tragically we lost California in a freak accident in a 480m race, a beautiful dog whom we would have won so many races with this year, without doubt the biggest down of 2016.
We needed to bounce back and the Essex Vase started well for us with ante post favourite Roswell Romanov again in scintillating form while we travelled north to Belle Vue as the RPGTV Oaks kicked off and Domino Storm looked somewhere back to her best with a demolition job in the first round.
We were now in the middle of some major kennel refurbishments and it was difficult trying to work around the builders. Off the track all eyes were on what tracks would bid for the right to stage the Derby and Towcester stated their intentions to get the Blue riband event. We travelled to Hall Green for the Bags Championship were incredibly we supplied all eight runners with Mac's On Storm again the star of the show. Towcester's innovative Saturday morning 8 dog racing began.
A great night's action at Romford where the memory of Adageo Bob's emotional Essex Vase success the previous year was prominent. Unfortunately Roswell Romanov couldn't repeat his feat when a very good second to Bubbly Torpedo in the decider though we still had a decent night with a few winners and Billys Bullet ran very well when runner up in the Mitch Millward Memorial 750m.
One last Category 1 left in the season for us to try and win was the RPGTV Oaks and defending champion Domino Storm was in fine form, an epic battle in the semi finals described by many as 'the race of the year' saw Domino Storm just get the better of old adversary Forest Twilight but in the final the draws saw Twilight in 2 and Meryl in 4 and our announcement that this was to be the last race in a stunning career she couldn't quite get the run of the race and Forest Twilight beat her by a couple of lengths. She lost nothing in defeat and the media warmly applauded her for her efforts. I have no problem in saying that she was the best bitch to ever grace our kennel.
Another superstar in our kennel the very next night was also having his last ever run. Coral had kindly decided to put on a Billys Bullet Retirement Stakes with extra prize money but no one thought he could beat Liz Mcnair's Diego Flight who a week earlier had won the Ballyreagan Bob Memorial race. Nobody had told Billy this and to a captive audience and the roars of his owners and friends he duly bolted out and never gave his rivals a look in. Quite fitting for a dog who was quite simply brilliant and what a way to go out.
I was thrilled to be invited as Guest of Honour to the Greyhound Writers annual lunch which this year was held at our owners Dick and Anne Barfoot's restaurant 'Sweetings' and there was much talk about the nominations for the awards and the forthcoming Bags Track Championship at Perry Barr.
Defending champions Towcester got off to a shaky start with Romford setting up a clear lead, in fact Towcester were last after 4 races but a brilliant win for 'team captain' Macs On Storm made it a magnificent 5 from 5 in the dogs division and kept Towcester in with a chance. Kevin Hutton's reserve for a reserve Stepitonstacey absolutely took off and gained another vital victory which was most needed. Patick Jannsens Slick Strauss then followed up in the next race to complete a memorable hat trick of wins for Towcester. With the last leg to come only Towcester or Romford could win and our Ballymac Shirley would only need to be in the first four to clinch it. Drama was to follow but in the wrong way as Ballymac Shirley broke down on the back straight but thankfully for us and Towcester the Romford dog could only finish 3rd. Although Towcester's celebrations were slightly muted after Shirley's injury it was still a magnificent day for them, thankfully Ballymac Shirley is now on the mend.
Ela Ela Genie finished a creditable 4th in the National Sprint at Nottingham and in the last couple of meetings at Romford Roswell Romanov took another Friday Night 500 Stayers title in an excellent 34.88
The last bit of great news came at the end of the year with the announcement that Towcester won the bid to stage the greatest Greyhound race in the world the Greyhound Derby next June.
MAJOR COMPETITIONS WON IN 2016
OLDFIELD LYNDA - Friday Night 500 Maiden Final - Romford - £500
ROSWELL ICEMAN - Towcester Racecourse Standard Final - Towcester - £750
DEANRIDGE ANGEL - Towcester Racecourse Standard Final - Towcester - £750
BALLYMAC SHIRLEY - Henlow Bookmakers Britches Standard Final - Henlow - £750
EVANTA FANTASY - Friday Night 500 Standard Final - Romford - £500
SAFFRONS ANNA - Friday Night 500 Bitches Standard Final - Romford - £500
RUBYS RASCAL - RPGTV Puppy Standard Final - Towcester - £750
BLASTOFF BONNIE - Towcester Racecourse Maiden Stayers Final -Towcester - £750
EVANTA FANTASY - Friday Night 500 Bitches Standard Final - Romford - £500
ROSWELL ROMANOV - Friday Night 500 Stayers Final - Romford - £500
ROSWELL ROMANOV - Friday Night 500 Stayers Final - Romford - £500
SWIFT WHIRLWIND - Peter Bussey Memorial Final - Crayford - £2,000
ELA ELA GENIE - Coral Sprint Final - Hove - £2,500
RUBYS RASCAL - Great North Run - Newcastle - £3,000
Major Invitation races
DOMINO STORM - Mervyn Cross Memorial Invitation - Towcester - £1500
DOMINO STORM - Betfred Select Stakes - Nottingham - £7,500
PATCHYS KERRY - Ladbrokes Golden Jacket - Crayford - £17,500
PATCHYS KERRY - Pinpoint Recruitment Three Steps To Victory Final - Sheffield - £10,000
BILLYS BULLET - Coral Regency Final - Hove - £10,000
FERRYFORTH FRAN - Ladbrokes Summer Stayers Final - Monmore - £7,500
CLONDOTY ALEX - East Anglian Derby Final - Yarmouth - £12,500
RUBYS RASCAL - Pinpoint Yorkshire St Leger Final - £8,000
FERRYFORTH FRAN - William Hill St Leger Final - Wimbledon - £25,000
MOST WINS IN 2017
1st - RUBYS RASCAL - 18
2nd - DOMINO STORM - 17
EVANTA FANTASY - 17
4th - FERRYFORTH FRAN - 15
5th - BILLYS BULLET - 14
ELA ELA GENIE - 14
WEBSITE MOST TOP PERFORMANCES
1st - DOMINO STORM - 6
ROSWELL ROMANOV - 6
PATCHYS KERRY - 6
4th - CLONDOTY ALEX - 5
5th - ELA ELA GENIE - 4
1st - SWIFT BRAVO - 4
2nd - RUBYS RAZZLE - 3
VANGAAL - 3
4th - SLIGO STAR - 2
FEARSOME FOLLY - 2
ROSWELL RED KITE - 2
SOVEREIGN KING - 2
FARRAN EVANS - 2
SOSAIDHS BLUE - 2
GIVEABITBACK SUE - 2
FAMIAS HOPE - 2
IMPERIAL KENNELS TOP PERFORMANCE OF 2016
IMPERIAL KENNELS GREYHOUND OF THE YEAR
WEBSITE 5 TO FOLLOW COMPETITION
1st - NADIAS NO HOPERS 2 .......433 pts
2nd - BRUCES BESTIES 1............430 pts
3rd - SARACENS 3 ......................424 pts
STAFF 5 TO FOLLOW COMPETITION
1st - MARK ...........376 pts
2nd- JUSTINE........ 358 pts
3rd - RONNIE......... 340 pts
WEBSITE 5 TO FOLLOW TOP SCORING DOGS
1st - ROSWELL ROMANOV .... 136 pts
2nd - RUBYS RASCAL ............ 110 pts
3rd - ELA ELA GENIE ............... 105 pts
4th - SWIFT BRAVO.................. 85 pts
5th - TREAD LIGHTLY............... 80 pts